Opinions & Letters

Failing grades

 | April 15, 2013

“We don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control.” — Pink Floyd.

A university lecturer at Memorial University in St. John’s, Nfld. was wondering why he wasn’t getting through to his class so he decided to give them a simple geography, history and math quiz. His first year students were an embarrassing indictment of the years they spent in elementary and high school. Forty per cent of them couldn’t name the ocean outside their front door. Some of the class had been on a high school trip to Italy the year earlier; yet many couldn’t find the country on a globe.

In a related story it turns out that 75 per cent of first year college students in New York state were required to upgrade their English because they were unable to read and write at university level. While one may feel sorry for the unlucky teacher who has to try and educate these dunderheads, one cannot feel sorry for the system that allows supposedly smart pupils to sit through kindergarten plus 12 years of public education costing about $8,300 per student per year.

It gets worse. Government funding for university and rising tuition fees are a major sore spot for the attendees but worse so for the taxpayers. Eighty five per cent of university costs are picked up by the taxpayer. So when the whiners take to the streets, as in Quebec, to protest (and smash windows to create a better world), one would hope that they would have this information in front of them. I’m sure everyone wants free tuition and health care but it turns out the professors like to be paid in dollars and the buildings and infrastructure doesn’t get put up for free either.

The other scandal besides these boneheads actually getting into university after 12 years of loafing is that the value of a higher education, in subjects other than science, technology, engineering and medicine, is rapidly becoming a money pit. We‘ve all heard stories of young people deep in debt with a useless degree.

Meanwhile, the feds want to bring in skilled foreign workers to address labour shortages. Wouldn’t it be a better idea to educate people in actual skills necessary for the economy and reduce funding in courses that (although they may be nice to learn) are unnecessary? If a young person wants a subsidized education, the taxpayer has the right to insist that the learning will be for something useful.

People are generally supportive of teachers because they’re trying to instill knowledge to children who tend to be disinclined, disruptive or just plain dumb. Teachers wages and school costs overall reflect this difficulty but the public system seems unable to balance necessary learning requirements like writing, reading and arithmetic with the so-called need to make education child centered.

The world is a rough place. Any kid who can read and write well will do well in school. Generally, if one does well in school one will do better in life.